Oct 16 | “You are enough,” (Sermon, October 16 2022)

This sermon was preached at Holy Cross parish in East Vancouver. Audio is linked at the bottom and you will notice there is an interlude in Japanese which is not included in the text version. Thank you as well to A. Nakao for recording the audio.

Good morning, Holy Cross parish. Thank you so much for having me. My name is Clare and I’m pastor to the St. Brigid’s congregation at Christ Church Cathedral.

All right, let’s do something a little different. Come along with me if you’re willing. If not, you can just listen, or take a little break if you need to. Do your shopping list. All are invited, none are compelled.

If you feel safe to, close your eyes. If you don’t, just soften your gaze. Let yourself breathe for a minute. Relax, feel yourself sturdy in the pew, breathe deep, relax any pressure points or pains.

Now, go to a beautiful place, a place that’s yours, where you’re totally safe. Maybe it’s a place you loved as a child – a house, a field, a beach, or maybe it’s just the darkness behind your eyes.

And finally, think about someone who loves you coming to meet you there. It can be someone who’s living, or someone who’s no longer on earth. Someone who knows you, with whom you have a shared vocabulary, who makes you laugh, who holds you when you cry, someone you don’t need to explain any of your weird quirks to, because they understand. Someone around whom you don’t have to pretend to be anyone else.

Let them slowly materialize in your mind’s eye. How do they look to you? What do you see on their face as they look at you? Is it a smile? Gentleness? Standing with arms held out? Seated in a chair with a lap ready for you?

Is it with invitation?

If yes, accept the invitation. Go into their arms, climb into their lap, stand close.

If not, just stand there and contemplate every part of that beloved one.

And let’s rest in the moment again.

You can come back to this moment any time you like, but now it’s time to leave. Thank the one who loves you, and become aware of your breathing. Become aware of the pew under you, of your limbs. Wiggle your fingers and toes.

You’re back here, with your friends and with me.

How did that feel?

This is how God wants it to be with us.

It might seem obvious, but I think we forget it often. Mai nichi watashitachiwa wasurete imasu.

Of course for some, God might be the only one who makes us feel that level of safety. But often, even that feels elusive and impossible, because we might think that God, knowing all of our sins and shortcomings, is more critical than our biggest critics. In the world we live in, we’re encouraged to believe that when someone knows our shortcomings, they’re just biding their time until they can use them against us.

Perhaps when Jesus tells us we should accept the Kingdom as children, that’s what he meant. Children are fully aware that they need help. They don’t fuss about it. They ask quite unselfconsciously for the things they need and want.

And yet somehow, we grow into adults who become so divorced from what they need that some die before asking for help, for support, for love.

A child will say, “Mummy, I want a hug.”

An adult will wake up one day and wonder how they ever got to be so lonely.

God begs us, pleads with us, never to lose that “Mummy, I want a hug,” relationship with God.

And yet we often exchange this relationship, which is loving but also dependent, for the perceived power that individualism promises.

The Israelites, newly born as a liberated people and sustained in the wilderness, built a kingdom, and began to struggle as all kingdoms do. Enslaved anew by empires, they heard the voices of prophets like Jeremiah speaking God’s word. God, who has deep respect for this beloved people, says through Jeremiah, “You wanted to be in right relationship, so I gave you the Torah to show you how it could and should be. Adults tell each other what they need. Why are you acting like we didn’t have that conversation?”

I don’t know about you, but I don’t get really ticked off with people I don’t care about. I only get ticked off with people I really care about. I do my best to tell the people I love the truth, because I respect them. Preserving the relationship is what’s most important, so I put the work in and have faith that they’ll listen, because they also care about the relationship.

That’s what God is like with us.

Jesus tells a parable of a woman who wears down an unjust judge with incessant self-advocacy. Jesus is not saying this is what God is like, and we should be like the woman. This woman has enough self-respect to demand justice for herself from this bored jerk and he relents. But God doesn’t have to be bullied into giving us what we need, because God loves us.

Often the Law or Torah is contrasted with the Gospel. One is hard and legalistic and one is easy and generous. This framing is wrong. It’s harmful to Jesus and Judaism. Like the 95 calls to action from the TRC, the Torah is God saying, “Do you want to be in right relationship? Do you really want that, with all your heart and soul? I’m going to take you at your word. I know you’re always saying you don’t want to offend me or get it wrong. So here it is. This is exactly what I need you to do to live in right relationship.”

That’s a huge gift.

How do we still get it wrong? The same reason I still snap at the people I love, or run late, or decide I’d rather sit around than clean my house. We’re frail. God understands that.

But to say that we don’t know what God wants from us?

Kanben shite.

We know what God wants.

We know God wants us to be kind and patient and loving.

We know God wants us to listen more than speak.

We know God does not want us to treat this planet and its many creatures, our siblings, with apathy and disdain.

We know God wants us to share with those less fortunate, and to advocate on behalf of the oppressed, and, you know, preferably not to oppress other beings in the first place.

We were taught that as children.

Why don’t we do it? We’re human. Okay.

But why do we pretend that God’s will is inscrutable?

I admit that sometimes it’s not clear what the right choice is. I’ve had times where I’ve lost sleep, where I’ve shook my fists at God and said, “How can I do the least amount of harm in this crappy situation?”

But often, it really is as easy as just choosing the good.

And if we can’t, or don’t, which, let’s face it, will be a lot of the time, it’s as easy as admitting that we know what we have to do, and we just don’t want to.

And that can just be the prayer. “God, I know what I have to do. But I really don’t want to.”

Believe me, God respects the honesty of that prayer.

Again, God does not have to be bullied and wheedled for justice or love, even when we screw up. God’s love cannot be bought or earned or stolen.

It’s offered freely, with total trust, in the same spirit as it was offered to you through that person you imagined at the beginning of the sermon.

Is that hard to believe?

Jeremiah shows us we can rest in that precious love. Remember, when the Israelites broke that first covenant, God prepared a whole new one.

“I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, ‘Know the Lord’, for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.”

You surely know that the one who loved you has made you a better person.

That too is the same with God.

So, ganbatte ne. It is enough.

leave a reply